Earlier this summer I had an exchange with some posters at HF about him, and was surprised to find so much support for a guy who hadn’t really done much in his freshman college season. Usually there’s some kind of buzz about a guy, hell even Colin McDonald got some love from various sources. Vande Velde? Hmm, not so much.
We knew he scored like crazy in Minnesota High Schools (I mean on the ice, jackass) but he didn’t put up ridiculous USHL numbers and he played 38 games and had 9 points for UND in 06-07. If offense is his calling card, you’d think maybe he’d have more to show for it. 38 college games is a wide canvas and 9 points doesn’t sound very promising.
Part of it is explained in this item from Inside College Hockey: VandeVelde’s first season of college hockey had a March rebirth as well, as he entered the month frustrated, looking for his first collegiate goal and quickly became the team’s playoff surprise. An injury to Matt Watkins prompted North Dakota coach Dave Hakstol to move VandeVelde up to the team’s second line, and the forward responded to the extra ice time with an offensive outburst. Those late-season feats have many betting on VandeVelde to be the man joining reigning Hobey Baker Award winner Ryan Duncan and preseason Hobey favorite T.J. Oshie on the top Sioux line when the season starts. VandeVelde scored seven points in North Dakota’s last nine games after notching just two in his first 29 contests.
He scored a goal last night after being elevated to the top line when Oshie was ejected. UND is the top team in the nation and although Vande Velde was apparently the 3rd line center on the depth chart entering the game scoring in the first game of the season is a definite upgrade over year one.
Is Chris Vande Velde a top level NHL prospect? Probably not. Guy Flaming doesn’t have him listed among his top 20 prospects and says “He ended last year on such a high note that many prospect watchers are choosing Vande Velde as their early must-watch Oiler prospect to follow this year. Vande Velde had to bide his time during much of North Dakota’s schedule in 2006-07, his freshman year, until injuries catapulted him onto the second line. Fortunately for him, he didn’t look a bit out of place and went on to score seven of his nine points during March. Although the Fighting Sioux aren’t expected to lose many of their impact players from a year ago, outside of Jonathan Toews (CHI), don’t be surprised to see the 6’1, 211 lbs. Vande Velde getting a bigger role than he had last season.”
Also this from Guy’s profile on him: “VandeVelde is strong skater who finds open ice, is very active in both ends of the rink, and is able to put the puck on net. “He’s a power forward who will drive it to the net, and he has a knack for scoring goals,” said Moorhead Coach Dave Morinville. “He’s a guy who is extremely smart and crafty around the net.” Morinville added that Vande Velde is incredibly strong on the puck, recalling that when guys hit him last year, it was almost like he was hitting them back.”
Sounds like everyone “saw him good”, but the more encouraging news about Chris Vande Velde is that in his last 10 NCAA games he has 8 points.